Ottawa

Council parks Chiarelli's request for leave of absence

In an extremely unusual move, Ottawa city council has put the College councillor's request for a formal leave of absence on hold.

Councillors Scott Moffatt, Allan Hubley assigned to help College ward residents

City council 'tabled' Coun. Rick Chiarelli's leave of absence request Wednesday. (Laura Osman/ CBC)

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  • Coun. Rick Chiarelli renewed his request for leave and submitted a new note for leave up to Nov. 11.

In a highly unusual move, Coun. Rick Chiarelli's council colleagues have put his request for a formal leave of absence on hold.

On Tuesday, Chiarelli issued a memo saying he was seeking a leave of absence for an unspecified illness. Chiarelli said he had been rushed to the emergency room on Aug. 14 and has been too ill to work since then.

He said he was even too ill to apply formally for a leave until now, although a travel video shows he was vacationing in the Czech Republic two days after Chiarelli says he was rushed to hospital.

Unlike Coun. Diane Deans, who asked for a leave of at least six month because she needs treatment for ovarian cancer, Chiarelli did not provide details of his illness, but wrote that he has sent a medical note to the clerk's office. The contents of that note remain confidential.

No formal leave for Chiarelli

Councillors cannot declare themselves on leave. If they miss three months of council meetings, their seats will be declared vacant unless they get express permission from council to be away.

The motion for Chiarelli's leave states the councillor plans to be away for "an indeterminate period of time, and at least until October 9, 2019 inclusive." The motion includes a resolution for councillors Scott Moffatt and Allan Hubley to help out the residents of College ward where needed.

Clearly people are feeling awkward and uncomfortable because of the allegations and the severity of the allegations against Coun. Chiarelli.- Mayor Jim Watson

City clerk Rick O'Connor told council that the request for a formal leave is "premature," considering that Chiarelli may be returning in two weeks. He told council that they could split up the motion into its parts, which is what they did.

Council passed the resolutions that deals with how to handle College ward business, but "tabled" the part of the motion that would have allowed Chiarelli to go on leave.

Council almost always grants a leave of absence to a councillor who requests it. The motion for Deans's absence was unanimously passed, which is more typical. That councillors were reluctant to grant Chiarelli a leave raises questions about the level of support the College ward councillor has around the council table.

In fact, it fell to Mayor Jim Watson to move the motion, and he had trouble getting it seconded.

"I think what you saw with the reluctance of people to even second the motion, that clearly people are feeling awkward and uncomfortable because of the allegations and the severity of the allegations against Coun. Chiarelli," Watson told reporters after Wednesday's council meeting. 

Mayor Jim Watson said members of council were feeling "awkward and uncomfortable" due to the allegations against Chiarelli, leading them to put off the part of a motion that would have allowed him to go on formal leave. 0:24

Two weeks ago, CBC reported that a woman alleges that Chiarelli asked her inappropriate questions of a sexual nature during a job interview.

The story also included reports from former employees that the councillors made inappropriate comments in the office.